Families can play important roles in assisting their children to become involved in recreation programs and activities. While the information in this module is designed mainly for recreation providers, we encourage families to review the other parts of this module. In particular, read the sections “Why Social Inclusion?” and “Why Recreation?” at the beginning of this module. It will also be helpful to read the sections “Other Strategies for Achieving Social Inclusion through Recreation” and “Providing Accommodations and Supports”.
Here are some suggestions that may be helpful as you think about supporting your child (including an adult child) to become involved in recreation.
Start community recreation involvement as early as possible
If you are a parent of a young child, try to get him or her involved in community recreation activities at an early age. This will help your child have experiences with other children who are of the same age as well as ensure that other children get to know your child while he or she is still young.
Know and believe in your child’s interests and strengths
It is important to recognize that your child is unique and has his or her own interests and strengths. What are the things that capture his or her attention? What are the activities that he or she does well? What shows your child’s unique strengths? (For example, a desire or love of being around other people is a strength that could be useful in encouraging community recreation involvement). Matching your child’s interests to recreation opportunities will allow your child to spend time with other people who share similar interests. This is the basis for developing relationships with others.
Know your community and its recreation opportunities
Every community has groups, and various recreation activities, programs, events that are available. Community newspapers, event calendars, bulletin boards, etc. are useful ways to find out what’s going on in your community and what your child might enjoy being involved with. Talk with recreation providers to find out how open they are to including your child or other people with disabilities. What kind of track record do they have with inclusive recreation?
Encourage your child to participate in recreation activities
You may want or need to actively encourage your child to get involved in recreation in the community (for example, doing things at school, or becoming involved in community groups and activities). Part of this encouragement will involve helping your child figure out what they may be interested in doing and helping him or her to make decisions about what they want to do.
Help your child develop personal and social skills
Developing personal and social skills may be important for a number of reasons. First, acquiring skills means that your child will be better able to do things that will make it easier to participate in the community. For example, learning a hobby or how to play a sport will make it easier for your child to be involved in groups that promote these activities. Likewise, learning how to ride a bus may make participation easier. While your child may always have some limitations, he or she will also have the ability to learn and grow.
Think about involving others in planning for recreation involvement
Sometimes, other people can help think about how your child can become involved in recreation activities. Other family members, friends, neighbours, teachers, people from religious communities, etc. may have ideas to offer on how participation can happen. There are also some specific planning processes that may be helpful. For example, NBACL offers individuals with disabilities and their families access to trained people who can facilitate an individualized planning process called PATH. This process helps to set some positive goals and ways to achieve those goals with the involvement of others.
Be careful of overprotection but be mindful of safety
It is not unusual for parents of children (including grown or adult children) with disabilities to want to be protective. This may result in a reluctance to expose your child to recreation activities in the community. This may result in your child having a very narrow social network (for example, he or she may do everything with family). Overprotection may deny your child the opportunity for involvement in the community and for developing other relationships. At the same time, however, it is important to understand why your child may be at greater risk of being harmed than others. Think about ways of providing safeguards that will allow your child to participate in community life while remaining safe from harm.
Assist recreation providers to know and understand your child’s strengths and needs for support
You may not be an expert in recreation but you are likely an expert on your child. You have valuable information about your child’s strengths and needs for support. As you plan to have your child involved in recreation activities, be sure to inform the recreation provider of the things that your child can do on his or her own and the things that he or she needs help with. Also, provide information on the best ways to support your child so that he or she can participate meaningfully and have an inclusive experience.